You can call the city of Porto easily lucky today. It has everything to be seen one of the most attractive places in Europe, or maybe even worldwide, and to be called a chill beach city on the Douro!
And a real city it is, with only around 300.000 people living in Porto, but with over 2 1/5 million inhabitants within the 50 km radius going from and to Porto, it is one of the larger cities on Europe’s coastline.
True, Porto has not always been and seen lucky, as it went through many eras of war with EU fellow countries like France, and times of poverty.
But the Tripeiros (the tripe eating people as Porto’s inhabitants are nicknamed) are known for their independence and pride of their city and can still give an impression of being a bit harsh and commercial, but turn out to be helpful and nice.
Porto has so much more to offer than tasting Port wine, so DON’ T go for a port tasting and DO skip the section below about port on this page if you are not interested. Not a problem.
Go to concert venues and party afterward, go hiking or paragliding in the Alto Douro, and of course, go to the beach!
Today Porto is one of the rediscovered gems of Portugal, full of monuments, street life, fabulous food in restaurants in town and along the river Douro with a great nightlife and with glorious city front beaches as well as within easy reach of Portugals fantastic Atlantic coast. It is that coastline that Spain has envied Portugal so long for (and maybe still does), as Portugals Atlantic city harbours were the portal to the world and Portugal was one of the powers of the world seas for centuries.
The historical centre of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, it was a harbour in Roman times and (to give a little historical insight) it could be that the combined Latin-Celtic name of the small town of Porto Cale at this spot was the origin of the name Portugal.
And Porto is geographically located in Alto Douro, one of the most beautiful regions and landscapes you can imagine!! and Unesco listed also, at the mouth of the river Douro, that originates in Spain (where it is called the Duero), the two most populous cities in Spain along the Duero are Valladolid and Zamora and in Portugal Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, the municipality across the Douro.
BEACHES – yes!
You may be reading this site looking for a chill beach city so let’s look at Porto’s beaches on the glorious Atlantic coast, which is impossible to resist.
North of the Douro river in front of Porto lies the great strip of Blue Flag beaches from the lighthouse up to the Fort of Sao Francisco Xavier.
Praia da Luz is a great beach spot with fabulous views all the way to Espinho on the South coast from the above Jardim dos Ingleses.
Praia do Molhe is the other popular beach and one of the iconic beach places at Porto’s coast since early 20th century. The 1930’s constructed Pergola Do Foz, a concrete balustraded walkway along the Esplanade has become its landmark since. This beach has good bar areas for great sea views and drinks.
Praia de Matosinhos is Porto’s main beach, a wide surfers beach with fantastic waves just a walk or a drive from Praia do Molhe past the fort of Francisco Xavier, with Parque da Cidade do Porto behind it.
Matosinhos beach consists of a long stretch of fine sand and is not rocky everywhere like the Praias do Molhe and da Luz.
It is known for surfing and other sports competitions and is full of activity and events from the annual Triathlon, to great Capoeira Dancing from Brazil!
Have a break from the breaks in the Matosinhos area just behind the harbour with its cruise terminal has a wide variety of great fish & shellfish restaurants if you are up for one of the most important moments of the day, Portuguese lunchtime!
Matosinhos’ connection to the city by Blue metro line to Matosinhos Sul station makes getting here very easy and you can walk from here to Praias do Molhe and da Luz.
Going further North, the long fabulous coast with beautiful beaches continues to Povoa de Varzim (with a great connection on Porto’s Red metro line) and Viano do Castelo.
South of the Douro river in front of Vila Nova de Gaia onwards starts the endlessly beautiful line of ocean beaches, that passes the mouth of the Natural Reserve of Sao Jacinto at Aveiro and past the small city of Figueira da Foz to get you to the famous surfers’ beach of Nazaré. But then you are two-thirds on your way to Lisbon.
Praia de Lavadores is the closest beach to Vila Nova de Gaia (where the Golden Tulip Porto Gaia stands at its Northern end) and is the first beach of the 17 kilometer stretch of beautiful sandy beaches towards the town of Espinho which has one of the best Casinos in Portugal.
All beaches here have their own character, beach bars, and eateries, but we want to mention the gorgeous stretch of Praia de Francelos and a bit further South the very special beach of Praia de Senhor da Pedra.
Praia de Senhor da Pedra is named after the Chapel of Senhor da Pedra, that stands prominently where sea and sand meet at the Miramar beach.
To me, this is the most impressive coastal location of worship I have ever seen, a beacon of solitude, strength, and pride of what is past and becoming at the same time at the ever-changing waters’ edge.
The chapel was constructed in 1686 on a rock close to the sea, and a pilgrimage in honour of Senhor da Pedra still takes place annually on Holy Trinity Sunday lasting till the following Tuesday.
You can hardly think of a more chill beach city with so many beach options!
Porto is a must see and a must beach!
SHARE YOUR MEMORIES! (decent ones!)
What is the best beach, hotel or secret place you have seen in Porto’s area? Add your tips below, in the Comment section!
Porto the City
For the many sights, must-sees and -do’s and restaurant/bar tips in Porto, check your Lonely Planet or other regular guides for info on Ribeira, the old centre of Porto, Cais de Ribeira, the quay at the river Douro, the Ponte Dona Maria, the railway bridge over de Douro constructed by Eiffel, Port tasting in Vila Nova de Gaia (no not again…!), the Estação de São Bento, the Sé (cathedral), the Carmo and Carmelitas church and 100’s of Porto’s other churches (ok, pick 2 per day and off to the beach!).
And check out these websites :
Where you go after hours depends on your choices and taste in life, but the general opinion is that let’s say compared to Lisbon, Porto is still a quite conservative city. BUT: look at the number of bars listed as mixed and/or gay (and drag show) friendly it may outnumber a city like Amsterdam easily today, so I don’t know if I agree.
REPLY below if you think that is not the case.
gooporto.com and localporto.com have a good listing for all tastes, from Pitch to Opoclub at the Douro river (fabulous location at daytime also) to Twin’ s, which manages to remain the elite club since the ´30.
And from Anki Bobo (pointed out as gay-friendly) to the trendy Industria for the large young crowds. Or maybe try Tribeca Jazz Club or MyMercedesisBiggerthanYours, one of the oldest rock bars.
The Porto Concert & Festival list is impressive, look at eventful.com
Most important is to go experience this chill beach city the way you like, here is a couple of more thoughts and facts on Porto’s rich city life and history.
By now it is commonly known that the creator of the Harry Potter adventures outlined her book series inspired by the street life and buildings of the city of Porto, as J.K. Rowling lived here in the early ’90.
The gorgeous Café Majestic and likewise Livreria (bookstore) Lello have become places of Potter pilgrimage (Lello charges a € 4, 00 entrance fee, refunded with purchase), but also fountains, students outfits and even the unpopular ex-dictator of Portugal Salazar are mentioned as inspiration for locations and a character’s name in the Potter fantasy.
Another funny example of the other side of mass tourism based on fantasy, a bit like Pokemon used to provoke.
Gustave – man of fantasy
The real name of Gustave Eiffel, who designed the Ponte Maria Pia over the Douro, was Bönickhausen, but the family changed it to Eiffel after the Eifel region in Germany.
Eiffel started a partnership with his fellow architect Seyrig, and their first 2 major contracts in 1868 were for the Maria Pia bridge here in Porto (it was the lightest, cheapest and most daring piece of railway bridge work back then!) and the West Station in Budapest.
Seyrig later built the king Dom Luis I bridge in Porto, these two bridges are often confused with one another, the Maria Pia (the king’s wife) bridge has one deck, Dom Luis I has two decks, so don’t!
Eiffel’s most famous works are the Eiffel tower in Paris, started in 1887 (still mega popular today, with French president Macron showing off hís tower by setting the dining table up high for his U.S. fellow president, no fake news here), and the Statue of Liberty in New York, but you will be no doubt impressed when looking up Eiffel’s list of works he carried out worldwide.
comes the section on Port Wine (skip if you are bored by port or scared of 77% alc.)
Port comes from Porto. Ok, that seems logical, but it may be handy to know that under the EU laws only the product from Porto can be labeled as Port, but in the U.S. wines that are labeled as “port” may come from anywhere worldwide.
It can be confusing (sometimes mysterious) when the expert goes off about the varieties and styles of Port, but it is basically easy.
Port wine is fortified with a colourless neutral spirit of 77 % alcohol.
Tawny port is made from red grapes aged in wooden barrels, giving it an amber colour and special scents, and Ruby port is stored in steel tanks, so Ruby keeps much more of its original colour and young character. Both Ports classify in Young, Reserva, and Superior, following age and quality.
Ok, there is much more to it, but do NOT let yourself be impressed by the years altogether; when you see Tawny ports of 10, 20, 30 and 40 years old, these are target age indications for a blend of several vintages of Tawny.
If you must spend on a Superior Ruby, the Vintage ones carry the label of the one year, that was believed by the wine company to be of extraordinary quality and that has been sent to the Port Institute for evaluation and approval. Quality therefore. And Colheita Port is, even more, quality, as Vintage spends around only 18 months in barrels, but Colheita may have stayed for over 20 years in wooden barrels.
One more (confusing) fact: Late Bottled Vintage means a port wine that has stayed in the barrel longer, because of lack of demand and is of lesser quality than vintage. The term has been introduced in the early 1960’s.
Connected with the Port and wine industry is the Rabelo type of boat, Porto’s landmark on the river so to speak.
Find rare Vintage ports on wine.com, taylor.pt
“O”ne crazy language twist is the O which the English put in front of the name Porto. The name of the city is PORTO and therefore you better call it Porto.
What happened is that the English mistook the article “O” that the Portuguese language uses to indicate the city’s name, in this case, O Porto when meaning the city of Porto, as being part of Porto’s name and yep: the mistaken name Oporto was born and has turned out to be very persistent in English.